The Lothians during World War One (II)
The Regiment Overseas: ‘A’ Squadron’s War
A Squadron’s war was marked by long periods of routine work, much of it on a front far away from the headline-grabbing battlefields of France. Their challenges were as much the effects of disease as war or maintaining their efficiency and skills with limited resources. Their postings were enlivened with periodic special duties and attachments. They were much sought after in a theatre where able mounted troops were thin on the ground but ideal for the conditions.
Tommy once worked in a baker’s van,
And I on a stool in town;
I was a sort of city man,
Tommy a hackney brown.
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, little thought thus to meet
As we passed each morning when I walked up and he rattled down the street.
Tommy is free from the morning rolls
That weighted his busy cart,
And I am one of five hundred souls Who ride with a single heart:
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, who could ever have guessed
We’d find each other good company – good company? – the best.
Tommy no longer must move ahead
At the bang of a door behind;
And I can’t snuggle till nine in bed, And I’m learning not to mind.
Tommy and I, Tommy and I, funny are fortune’s tricks,
To kick me out of a crowded tent to saddle him up at six!
W Kersley Holmes, 1915
A Squadron embarked for France from Southhampton on 21 September 1915 and under the 26th Division they were posted immediately into the line south of the Somme as XII Corps Reserve. They remained in this relatively low-key role until the end of October when the division headed for Marseilles and embarkation for, as it turned out, the Salonika area of northern Greece. There, a composite allied army was assembling to stiffen the resistance of the local friendly states against invading Austrian and Bulgarian forces allied to Germany.
The 26th headed for Langaza and A Squadron spent the next 6 months perfecting their skills in patrolling and reconnaissance in the swathe of unmapped territory between the Allied and Bulgarian forces. In August 1916 A Squadron was reunited with D Squadron when, with elements of the Derbyshire Yeomanry (who had been depleted by the effects of malaria), a composite regiment was formed under the direction of the 7th Mounted Brigade in the Struma sector. By October they were back with 26th Division but this time on the Doiran Front, a static position until the final advance in September 1918. Although the division was static, the Lothians’ mounted role was exploited in a number of special operations. In December 1916 they were detached to escort 1700 men and 2000 mules and animals (barely 100 men to guard a 6 mile long column) on a seven day march from Salonika to positions near Mount Olympus.
In March 1917 they were engaged in attacks on the Bulgarian forces opposing the 26th Division and there was much ‘raiding’ in the period November 1917 – July 1918. As the Bulgarian Army collapsed during the autumn of 1918 the squadron participated in the general chase. After an armistice was signed on 20 September they were in Serbia acting as link troops between British, Serbian, and Greek occupation forces. In October they transfered to Bulgaria prior to storming Turkey, but this action was forestalled when another armistice was signed at the end of the month. By Christmas 1918 they had joined the Army of Occupation in Trans-Caucasia and were based on Batum. Their duties were policing and bringing order in a highly volatile region. Over the next six months a gradual demobilisation was insituted. The final cadre of the squadron returned home on 2 July 1919, marching through the streets of Edinburgh the following day prior to dispersal to their homes.
Keywords: World War One, First World War, WWI, WW1